Narratives on celluloid with multiple plot-lines criss-crossing and eventually coming together have been done copious times both in Hollywood and other films industries across the globe. However, Indian cinema is yet to fully wake up to such stories, and whenever they've been done here, the results haven't been something to write home about. Truth be told, the Tamil film, Super Deluxe (2019) and
Anurag Basu's own Life in a Metro (2007) are the only titles that come to mind, which registered a solid impact with their interconnecting plots and characters. Now, the latter returns, post the debacle of Jagga Jasoos (2017), to have another stab at this concept, and let me say it straight out that his Ludo is even better than what he had achieved with Life in a Metro.
Scroll down for my full Ludo review... What's it about
Five plot-lines, each involving five pairs — notorious gangster Sattu (
Pankaj Tripathi) and a benevolent head nurse (Shalini Vatsa), henchman Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan) and a rich, neglected kid (Inayat Verma), middle-class mimicry artist Akash (Aditya Roy Kapur) and husband hunter Ahana (Sanya Malhotra), hassled housewife Pinky ( Fatima Sana Shaikh) and her schooltime crush Aalu ( Rajkummar Rao), and finally, mall clerk Rahul (Rohit Suresh Saraf) and rookie Malayali nurse Shreeja (Pearle Maaney) — keep bumping into each other’s lives due to a combination of fate and circumstances, leading to a Tarantino-esque showdown that needs to be seen to be believed.
It's marvellous how writer-director Anurag Basu joins all the dots and seamlessly intersects his varied plots points and characters in a long-running fluid motion of two and a half hours. Each of five stories and the ten main characters inhabiting them grip your attention and make you feel invested in their outcomes. How Sattu's mob hits lead to him chasing Rahul and Shreeja when they inadvertently cross paths; what is Bittu's past connection with Sattu and how a little girl sets them on a collision course; why Akash and Ahana hotel hunting places them bang in the middle of the aforementioned players' problems; and how Aalu and Pinky unintentionally free Sattu when helping another inmate run from the cops — seeing everyone of these tracks cross and divert and cross again with their multiple layers is akin to watching a high-quality Moto GP race in motion. And the genesis of the title, too, is justifies by the end.
Of course, it helps in no small measure when you have the services of such a talented cast. Pankaj Tripathi once again steals the show, and is no less than the star attraction on display. Abhishek Bachchan gets his best role in years and chews it down to the bone — his scene where he's attempting to see his daughter's face is some of the finest emoting you'll witness. Everyone else from Aditya Roy Kapur (languidly charming) and Sanya Malhotra (a bundle of energy) to Rohit Suresh Saraf (anxiety on point) and Pearle Manney (a crackling combo of vulnerability and sensuality) to Fatima Sana Shaikh (proves Dangal was no fluke) and the little girl, Inayat Verma (a perfect mischievous foil to a brooding Abhishek) to Shalini Vatsa (another good foil to Pankaj and Asha Negi (impactful in a small role) are a delight to watch. Honestly, Rajkummar Rao is the only one that comes up with a slightly over-the-top performance when it wasn't needed, and yet, he, too, is more than pleasing on the eye.
Other positives of Ludo include a fine background score by Pritam, Anurag Basu doubling up as the cinematographer and excelling in that department, too, and the production design.
The only places where Basu's narration falters is a bit in the middle, when things start to drag. You suddenly feel worried that he's losing his iron-clad clutch on proceedings, but, thankfully, gets it back well in time before the rambunctious climax. No doubt, Ajay Sharma also has to cop the blame for failing to keep the narrative just as tight, crisp, and interesting in some of the middle portions as the rest of the movie is.
A few grievances and the issues of length aside, Ludo is a wonderfully pleasant albeit profound game where the multiple plot-lines and characters cross paths as fluidly as the best times you've had on the eponymous board game itself. I'm going with 3.5 out of 5 stars.
3.5 out of 5
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